Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Fashion Talk: The higher the better

This season, "show-off" high heels are stars of the show.

This season is all about shoes: show-off shoes. Vast platforms, enormous wedges and scene-stealing stilettos are the common denominator uniting diverse trends from the 1970s to the 1940s.

Forget "it" bags. Don't leave home without your "limo" heels; the sort that elevate you by 175mm and hint you have a limousine nearby and don't have to wobble (forget walking), too far.

Far more than being mere "punctuation" to autumn/winter 2011/12 looks, a combination of the platform-wearing Lady Gaga and a global recession, which has limited our spending to punchy accessories, has made high heels the talking point of fashion.

Heels, historically the preserve of the rich, have become cheap, although their height and sheer extravagance don't give this away.

The very (very) many glamorous styles of platforms and "super" heels currently on offer from affordable fashion chains such as Topshop, Dune, Carvella, French Connection, Dorothy Perkins, Nine West, New Look, LK Bennett, H&M (the new Versace range) and Office buck past trends. Zany heels and bright colours rival pricey, designer versions.

On hand to try these out - the higher and sillier the better - is a generation of young women who have grown up wearing trainers and consider heels and platforms a novelty.

Show-off heels have also become a "no-brainer" when it comes to this season's contradictory and confusing fashion trends. Wearing a pair of look-at-me shoes means you don't have to worry too much about the rest of your outfit.

I tested out this theory last weekend at a wedding. For the occasion I had bought a pair of inexpensive (Dh141) yet insanely high heels from a value store called Peacocks.

Although these were higher than any I've worn in my entire life - a whopping five and half inches - the chunky platforms and spongy lining actually made walking (and dancing) possible.

The overall heel and platform, meanwhile, stretched my legs to mega-flattering proportions and teetering above the crowd, apologising slightly for my "wobble" walk, left me feeling a cross between Anna Dello Russo and Marilyn Monroe. Not a bad thing.

My new shoes came in black with a rounded toe in snakeskin effect, but I could have equally gone for a high-heeled loafer in nude, or a pointy toe spike heel in dark purple. Or for that matter a velvet Japanese kabuki-look "flatform" in a rich, jewel velvet. Although it would be honest to say statement shoes are having an "it" moment, funnily enough there is no one "it" shoe.

Although the seemingly enormous choice in the lowest price range is mirrored in the upper tier, where you can pay anything from Dh4,123 for a Charlotte Olympia or Jimmy Choo platform, I would argue, longevity is not guaranteed.

I have ruined (too many) leather-soled shoes by Manolo Blahnik and Dolce & Gabbana because - alas - the limo was not near enough.

Even worse than spending Dh1,000 on a pair of shoes that don't even last a year in fashion is witnessing a pair of expensive heels snap. All the posh shoes I've ever worn only ever look beautiful box-fresh.

To further distance themselves from cheaper versions, shoe designers in the top tier have pushed up their price tags as well as their heel heights.

Alexander McQueen, for instance, currently has the highest wedges (7.5 inches/190mm). Meanwhile Aruna Seth, whose clients include Pippa Middleton, has crystal-encrusted heels that cost a whopping Dh13,549.

By next spring high heels will be a distant memory if we can believe the designer catwalks. But I've no doubt they will soon teeter back into fashion.

According to Shonagh Marshall, a professional fashion curator, whose show, Shoes For Show: the Sculptural Art of High Heels, has just finished in east London, high heels have been worn by women (of wealth) for centuries.

Marshall, who was responsible for archiving Isabella Blow's costumes and works with Christian Louboutin and Daphne Guinness, featured a platform Turkish bath shoe dating from the Ottoman period (1890) in her recent exhibition.

Ladies of a certain class wore these to stop dirty water from sloshing their feet during bathing. Made of wood and embellished with mother of pearl, these were beautiful as well as practical. In a way, like my wedding shoes.

Teetering in my heels, towering above guests and being able to spy on my little son on the dance floor - and husband talking to friends - while feeling ridiculously glamorous I experienced something of a conversion. I've always preferred flat shoes. I now have the highest opinion of heels. Especially very high, very low-cost ones.

Updated: November 13, 2011 04:00 AM



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